Photo Stories,  Wildlife

The Story Behind the Photo: White Pelican in Flight

One of my favorite spots to photograph White Pelicans on the Mississippi River is Fisherman’s Corner South on the Illinois side of the river.  The best spot is to walk out on the Levee towards the dam.

White Pelican Looking for a Place to Land

There are plenty of White Pelicans to photograph on the water, but the real fun is when they are flying.  Since the levee is surrounded by water on both sides, the pelicans can arrive from all directions.  So you need to be prepared.

Have your camera on AI Servo / continuous focus mode so you are ready for the flybys.  You also should know your camera controls by touch.   I found myself constantly changing the following controls:

  • Exposure compensation – so the whites on the pelicans did not blow out in the sun.
  • ISO – when the shutter speed dropped too low.
  • Aperture – Changed to a smaller ISO when photographing groups of Pelicans so all the birds would be in focus.


Camera:  Canon 5d Mark iii
Lens:   Canon 500 mm f/4 + 1.4x Teleconverter
Focal Length:  700mm
ISO:  500
Aperture:   f/9.0
Shutter Speed: 1/200 of a second
Exposure Compensation: -1/3
Lighting: Sunny Morning


  • Cropped the photo in Lightroom 5.
  • Used Google Viveza 2 to selectively lighten, darken, and add saturation to the photo.
  • Added Detail, Saturation, and contrast to the image using the Detail Extractor Filter in Color Efex Pro 4.
  • Used Topaz DeNoise and a Layer Mask in Photoshop CC to selectively remove the noise from the photo.
  • Selectively sharpened the image using the Unsharp filter and a layer mask in Photoshop CC.
  • Used Google Viveza 2 to darken the top corners of the photo to make the bird pop.

Written by Martin Belan

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